by Zack Lambert (@bigbird8224)
March 9th, 2020
FC Barcelona at Paris Saint-Germain F.C.
Spread: PSG (0, -0.5); O/U: 3.5
Moneyline: Barcelona +180, PSG +130, Draw +290
Time/Location: 3:00 ET, Parc des Princes, Paris, France
Barcelona (WWWWD); 2nd in La Liga
We’ve seen it happen before.
Everyone knew that with this draw came the lore and weight of the events of March 8th, 2017. The night in which the world came crashing down around Paris Saint-Germain, who’s only goal was to not lose 4-0, or by more than four if they scored. But that task proved too much for the French hopeful, Lionel Messi and their own Neymar leading one of the most improbable and exciting comebacks in the history of football itself.
While another comeback following the 4-1 thrashing at the Camp Nou is improbable, Messi and company know it’s possible. Just last week Barcelona smashed Sevilla 3-0 to come back from a 2-0 aggregate deficit in the Copa del Rey. This team is capable of improbable comebacks against the best in the world, and they’re not going down without a fight.
In fact, Barcelona are playing some of their best football of the season at this moment. They haven’t lost a match since that ugly showing against PSG and they haven’t dropped a point or even allowed a goal in four matches, two of which came against Sevilla. Barcelona have shot up the table, now ahead of Real Madrid in second place in La Liga. Frenkie de Jong, Griezmann, Jordi Alba, Ousmane Dembélé, and Pedri are all playing fantastic football right now, and their leader Messi is looking to make a mark and silence his critics in what could be his last season with the club. I’m not saying that they’ll do it, but we would be foolish to count them out.
Paris Saint-Germain (WWWLW); 2nd in Ligue 1
If you’re a PSG fan you can’t be sleeping well, can you? No, this isn’t the same Barcelona that you faced when you drowned in front of the world at the Camp Nou, allowing goal after goal, hardly able to fend off the onslaught that came, finally breaking when Sergi Roberto flicked in the final effort to make the match 6-1, the straw that broke the camel’s back. But it’s still a dangerous version. It helps that Coutinho, Fati, Roberto, and Araujo are out and fans will be hopeful that Jordi Alba misses the occasion, but the Parisians are not showing a clean bill of health either. Their mega-star Neymar will miss the clash and star youngstar Moise Kean will be out of the game as well, likely leaving Mbappé to fend for himself at the top of the formation. PSG are strong, but not at full strength.
No matter how confident PSG fans might claim to be, it’s clear that there will be no joy until the final whistle blows and PSG move to the quarterfinals. It’s going to take a masterful performance to keep Barcelona at bay, but it’s very possible. What the club must do is not sit back and allow the Catalans to take their chances, because they will take them and they will convert them. PSG must play their own game and attack, bring the game to Barcelona.
If you park the bus against Lionel Messi, he will beat you. He is too precise and even though he doesn’t have the ordinary arsenal of weapons at his disposal, he’s more than capable of winning this match himself. PSG must take advantage of the weakened Barcelona midfield. Make Busquests run, force Pedri into high pressure situations, if Frenkie de Jong wants to join the attack, exploit his space with quick counter attacks. Force Jordi Alba and Sergiño Dest to sprint up and down the pitch early and often. Make Barcelona hurt. They can’t keep up with the depth and fitness of Paris, and exploitation of that is the key to victory.
Analysis and Pick
I’m not a Paris fan so I have no qualms of thoughts of voodoo or jinxing when I say that it’s not going to happen. Barcelona isn’t going to score four goals to nil, and they’re not going to win by five. It won’t happen this time, but not because it can’t happen. It’s because Paris won’t allow it to happen. They’re going to play a cautious game, one that doesn’t take risks that puts them in precarious situations, and one that allows them to advance on aggregate.
I don’t think this is going to be the high flying affair that everyone wants to see. Barcelona will play a high line and press PSG, but their midfield and defense are filled with consistent, reliable performers, many of which have played on bigger stages than this one. There will be goals, but don’t expect to see another seven spot once the referee marks ninety minutes of live ball play. Take Barcelona to cover the spread, but their campaign will still end in Paris.